I’m pleased to present a guest post from Joe Guzzardi, a regular Wednesday and Saturday contributor here. Joe recently began writing Double the fun, which looks at a famous doubleheader each Saturday, and today, he examines the only time the following has happened in baseball history: a combined no-hitter, in a doubleheader, that ended in defeat.
The first time I read the headline, I couldn’t believe it. And now reading it again forty-three years later, it’s still hard to fathom even though I know the game is etched in baseball history lore: Two Oriole Pitchers Hold Tigers Hitless but Lose, 2-1, New York Times, May 1, 1967
The simple and amazing answer is that in his 8-2/3 innings left hander Steve Barber, the losing starting pitcher, yielded ten walks, hit two batters and threw a wild pitch.
As St. Louis Cardinal Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch famously said after he became the New York Giants’ play-by-play announcer: “Oh, those bases on balls.”
To add fuel to the fire, slick-fielding Mark Belanger, playing second base, made his only error of the year at that position which allowed the winning run to score in the top of the ninth.
When 26,884 fans turned out at Baltimore’s old Memorial Stadium for an early season doubleheader to watch Barber and Jim Palmer match up against the Tigers’ Earl Wilson and Joe Sparma, they had no idea the screwy game they were about to witness.
On his fateful day, Barber entered the top of the ninth clinging to a 1-0 lead before the wheels quickly feel off.
Barber issued back-to-back walks to Norm Cash and weak hitting Ray Oyler.
After Wilson sacrificed the runners to second and third, Barber got Willie Horton to foul out before throwing a wild pitch that allowed pinch runner Dick Tracewski to score the tying run.
Enter Stu Miller to face Don Wert who promptly lined a grounder up the middle that shortstop Luis Aparicio fielded. But Belanger dropped Aparicio’s toss which allowed another Tiger pinch runner, Jake Wood, to score the winning run.
Barber’s line: 8 2/3 IP; 0 H; 2 R; 1 ER; 10 BB; 3 SO
Barber and Miller finished with one of just nine combined no-hitters in baseball history. Of this group, only one other ended in defeat, a 2-0 losing gem by Blue Moon Odom and Francisco Barrios for the Oakland A’s against the Chicago White Sox on July 28, 1976. And just one other combined no-no came as part of a doubleheader, Babe Ruth and Ernie Shore’s 9-0 blanking of the Washington Senators on May 29, 1917.
Hours after Barber and Miller’s effort, the Orioles played their night cap and lost that game as well, 6-4. Palmer had nothing. The Tigers led by a Cash home run roughed up the future first ballot Hall of Fame inductee for six runs in the top of the fifth to send Palmer to an early shower.
Palmer’s line: 5 IP, 6 H, 6 R; 6 ER; 4 BB; 3 SO
Despite an aggregate 21 bases on balls during the two games, the playing times were a tidy 2:38 and 2:30.
Besides seeing one of baseball’s most unusual games, fans had an opportunity to watch five future Hall of Fame players. Along with Aparicio and Palmer, others included Al Kaline as well as Frank and Brooks Robinson.
By 1967, the year of his dubious contribution to baseball history, Barber’s career was on the wane. Signed by Baltimore in 1957 when he was 18, Barber eventually became a productive part of the 1966 World Series Champion Orioles when he started 22 games and went 10-5 with a 2.30 ERA.
Although my recollection of Barber is that of a journeyman who also pitched for the Yankees, Cubs, Braves, Angels and Giants, at his best he won 18 and 20 games in 1961 and 1963. Barber, who was also chosen for the 1963 and 1966 All Star Game, was the first modern day Oriole to win 20.
In all, Barber racked up 121 lifetime victories and finished in the top ten in ERA and wins during three separate seasons. Today, assuming he had a shrewd agent, those stats might earn Barber somewhere in the range of $8-$10 million annually.
Barber, an Oriole Hall of Fame member, died in 2007.
Joe Guzzardi belongs to the Society for American Baseball Research, as well as the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.